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TWU student Whitney Bracey breaks barriers in business, ballet and beyond
Photo by Michael Modecki
Texas Woman’s University’s fashion student Whitney Bracey embodies today’s Texas woman. She is an athlete and a fashionista, an entrepreneur and an advocate, an employee and a student, and she embraces each of these qualities and uses them to drive her passion to start a fashion company that is inclusive of all women.
Even her height is impressive — Bracey stands at 5’10,” and an easy 6’2” with her heels on, and she dresses with simple sophistication- the essence of style. Her sharp mind and keen business sense blend seamlessly with her genuine love for fashion and desire to serve others. This becomes immediately evident when she describes her business/brand name, Mahogany Blues Apparel LLC.
Meet the Mahogany Blues woman, the type of woman Bracey pictures when she designs swim and dancewear: “She’s comfortable in her own skin and doesn’t mind being the center of attention, but she doesn’t actively seek it out. She’s confident, she does her own thing, she seeks the joy in life, and she owns it.”
Naturally, this persona description reflects Bracey.
Athlete and Fashionista
Bracey’s love for fashion began at age six, when she decided her Barbie Dolls needed new outfits. She would tear and cut her socks and shirts, and resew them to make clothes for her dolls. Eventually, her mother caught on to what she was doing, and taught her how to sew by hand and later, on a sewing machine. Her passion for fashion extended beyond dolls, and eventually Bracey began sewing her own clothes.
“I would make my own clothes; I loved sewing my name and initials onto my shirts and pants,” Bracey said. “It was my way of letting people know it was mine.”
Her last name was also found on the back of another important piece of clothing — her basketball jersey. Bracey was accepted to TWU in 2004 on a basketball scholarship and as a fashion major. “I was able to play basketball and learn fashion- my two favorite things,” she said.
She attended the university full time until 2007, when she decided to gain more business and design knowledge. Bracey joined forces with a friend to design custom swimwear for beauty pageants. Over the years, Bracey took note of the lack of diversity in color of ballet leotards and began designing various shades of brown leotards specifically for women of color.
Entrepreneur and Advocate
“One of my good friends owns an organization— Brown Girls Do Ballet, and she was telling me all ballerinas of color have to dye their leotards, usually by tea dying or coffee dying them,” said Bracey.
Bracey explains this process entails dipping leotards into dark steeped tea or brewed coffee until the desired shade is reached. Dancers will also “pancake” makeup onto the leotard in certain areas like straps, to ensure the color matches their skin.
Recognizing the need for a change, Bracey begin sewing leotards in a variety of shades to match the endless variety of ballet dancers skin color. Instead of dying white leotards, she orders fabric in a spandex blend and hand sews the leotard together.
As a young black woman, Bracey identifies with the lack of representation in the fashion industry, and feels called to use her design talents to ensure inclusivity of all skin types. “It’s simple: I believe everyone should feel represented,” Bracey said.
She added, “I feel God wants me to do something with the talent I’ve been blessed with, I want to help change the world and impact lives and making dancewear in a variety of shades is a good place to start.”
Full time employee, business owner and engaged student
After a four year hiatus, Bracey decided to return to TWU in 2011 to finish her bachelor of arts in fashion, noting that it is her belief that if you start something, you finish it. She speaks of her time at TWU with gratitude, thankful that she has the business acumen and collaboration skills necessary for managing her burgeoning business.
Bracey has 24 hours of coursework to complete, is working full time as a Quality Assurance Technician at Peterbilt in the evenings and designing and sewing with her team for Mahogany Blues Dance Apparel during the day. She’s taken one or two classes a semester for the last two years, working to fit them into her already packed schedule.
Bracey says retired TWU faculty Nancy Pickett, Ph.D., gave her a serger — a machine that gives a nice finished edge on clothing — which she still uses to sew today.
“The faculty believed in me,” Bracey said. “They have pushed me to my limits and beyond what I thought was possible, and I’m very grateful to them and TWU.”
While Bracey acknowledges that it will have taken her 11 years to earn her TWU degree, she is quick to connect how the journey to finishing her degree mirrors that of business ownership.
“Every day, there is a battle, and once you’ve conquered one battle, there will always be another. You just figure out how to keep going, and come out on top,” she said.
As a young, professional business owner, Whitney Bracey represents the entrepreneurial mind and service spirit of Texas Woman’s University. As she embraces her unique life experiences, dedicates herself to her goals, welcomes challenges and designs fashion with the goal of empowering young women, she truly represents Texas Woman’s University.
Texas Woman’s University (TWU) is the largest public university in the nation primarily for women and has an enrollment of approximately 15,000 students on campuses in Denton, Dallas and Houston. Since its founding in 1901, TWU has produced more than 88,000 graduates in fields vital to the growth and quality of life in Texas and the nation, including nursing, health care, education and business.
Page last updated 3:06 PM, September 12, 2018